24 found guilty in Gujarat riot killings

A police van transporting some of those convicted from the Ahmedabad court yesterday.
A police van transporting some of those convicted from the Ahmedabad court yesterday.PHOTO: REUTERS

69 Muslims died in 2002 after Hindu mob set fire to homes and attacked those fleeing

NEW DELHI • An Indian court convicted 24 Hindus yesterday of murder and other charges related to an anti-Muslim riot in the western state of Gujarat in which dozens of Muslims were killed at a time when Prime Minister Narendra Modi was chief minister.

A total of 69 Muslims, including a former lawmaker, were killed at a housing society in Ahmedabad, Gujarat's main city, in the 2002 riot when a mob set fire to their homes and attacked fleeing families, prosecutors said.

Lawyers representing the victims said the court acquitted 36 defendants who had been on trial since 2009. Four of the accused died during the trial.

Of those found guilty yesterday, 11 were convicted of murder and the rest of lesser charges which will not be made public until sentencing on Monday, said Mr S.M. Vohra, a lawyer for more than three dozen riot victims.

Celebrations erupted in the courtroom in Ahmedabad amid tight security after the verdicts were read out, with victims and their families clapping and thanking the judge.

The riot was one of a series across Gujarat in 2002 in which more than 1,000 people were killed, most of them Muslims, making it one of India's worst outbreaks of religious violence.

LONG ROAD TO JUSTICE

It has taken me 14 years to prove the crime committed against innocent Muslims. Justice will heal the wounds of the riot survivors.

MR S.M. VOHRA, a lawyer for more than three dozen riot victims.

A Hindu mob scaled a boundary wall of the Gulbarg housing society and began torching the houses on Feb 28, 2002, prosecutors said. The attack came a day after 60 Hindu pilgrims died in a train blaze which triggered the riots.

A court convicted 31 people years later of arson. Mr Ehsan Jafri, a former lawmaker for the Congress party, was among those killed at the housing society. He was dragged out of his home, hacked and burnt to death, prosecutors said.

Mr Jafri's wife is separately fighting the last legal battle against Prime Minister Modi in relation to the riots, accusing him of turning a blind eye. Mr Modi ruled Gujarat state for a decade before becoming prime minister in 2014.

Accusations that he did not do enough to stop the rioting have dogged his career.

Mr Modi has always denied any wrongdoing.

In 2013, a panel appointed by the Supreme Court said there was insufficient evidence to prosecute him.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 03, 2016, with the headline '24 found guilty in Gujarat riot killings'. Print Edition | Subscribe